KĀNUN-E PARVAREŠ-E FEKRI-E KUDAKĀN VA NOWJAVĀNĀN ii. Libraries

 

KĀNUN-E PARVAREŠ-E FEKRI-E KUDAKĀN VA NOWJAVĀNĀN

 

ii. Libraries

The beginning. A children’s library, conceived by the founders of Kanun as a pilot project for future libraries, was approved, and construction began in 1965 on the first Children’s Library (Ketābḵāne-ye markazi) in Farah Park (Pārk-e Faraḥ; later Pārk-e lāleh). Meanwhile, Lily Amirarjomand and Homā Zāhedi began looking into the possibility of establishing libraries in working-class neighborhoods in southern Tehran. They found at two schools annex buildings that could be rapidly modified to host medium-sized libraries. The first Kanun-trained assistant librarian, Parvāneh-Nāhid Ḵeyrābi, a university student, started her work in one of these libraries, which was ready to serve its young public. Kanun’s non-stop efforts at persuading schools, in one way or another, with offers of annexable space or other state-owned, transferable buildings resulted in the formation of some six more children’s libraries in Tehran before the official inauguration in 1966 of the Central Library.

Meanwhile, Amelia Baghdassarian worked with Lily Amirarjomand to apply the Dewey Decimal Classification System and other international classification standards to books purchased or published by Kanun, in order to help organize the Kanun libraries. Baghdassarian also served as director of growing libraries from 1966 until 1971 (interviews with Homā Zāhedi and Lily Amirarjomand). 

Management of libraries. From 1966 on, the building of new children’s libraries or the conversion of existing buildings and houses into libraries across the country gathered momentum. On a practical level, this meant that the limited  staff could no longer deal with the employment, training, administration, and financial and personnel affairs of the ever-increasing workforce and libraries. There were also organizational and management problems, inherent in the extra activities, which had to be resolved. The planning of travel for the purpose of training the workforce as well as overseeing the teachers also had to be managed. The teachers already had their own training and practice in the capital at different workshops (e.g., music, theater, storytelling, painting, wall journals). 

An effective management delegating process was now of paramount importance. Staff and line units had to be shaped. Administration had to be separated from cultural, artistic, and library-oriented services and training. An added concern was the administration of a variety of nonbook activities in the ever-increasing number of libraries. 

The first important reorganization of the libraries and book-lending mobile services took place in 1971. Three separate departments were created: Tehran Department, under ʿAli Mirzāʾi (1949-), Province Department under Niv Nābet (1945-), and Cross-Country Mobile Services Department under Dāriuš Ḥaqiqiṭalab (1945-), who served until 1976, when he left Kanun; his department was incorporated into the above regional departments. Kanun also established in the early 1970s a civil engineering department (Daftar-e ḵadamāt-e mohandesi) for designing and supervising the construction of libraries and cultural centers to meet international standards; Esfandiār Biglary was its director (Mirzāʾi, 2010, p. 5). 

The second important reorganization, at Niv Nābet’s behest, was adopted in 1974; under the control of the Province Department, ten offices, one for each of the ten provincial divisions of the time, were created, each with an administrative staff of its own. In 1976, in addition to the responsibility of directing all libraries and cultural centers of the first region, Mirzāʾi was also appointed as director of the committee for selecting, purchasing, processing, and distributing books for all of Kanun’s libraries. Mirzāʾi and Nābet had some of the most important responsibilities at Kanun, both in staff and line matters, as by the late 1970s the cultural centers and libraries of Kanun had hundreds of employees, including librarians, artistic teachers/trainers, drivers, and guardians (interviews with Nābet and Mirzāʾi). 

By 1978, Kanun’s managing director was convinced that even these reorganizations were inadequate in addressing all the administrative and financial problems besetting Kanun’s overloaded central office. Her last decision was to implement a total separation of the libraries from Kanun’s central administration and financial, production, and creation departments, including all artistic activities and training services. Management responsibilities were concentrated in a new department that was accountable only to Kanun’s managing director. 

Training and research centers. To formulate consistent cultural-educational policies and to meet the needs of securing qualified personnel for the ever expanding number of libraries, Kanun established two centers in the early 1970s, one for research and another for training librarians.  

The Center for Cultural and Social Surveys (Markaz-e pažuhešhā-ye farhangi va ejtemāʿi) was founded in 1970 with Shirvanlu as its director and ʿAṭāʾ-Allāh Nuriān as its associate director. When Shirvanlu left Kanun in 1971, Nuriān succeeded him. The Research Center continued its activities in the 1970s and conducted a number of surveys on living conditions and cultural and educational needs of children and young adults in rural and urban areas. The surveys were intended to provide Kanun’s directors with the necessary information to formulate policies and planning for the future development of Kanun’s activities (interviews with Mirzāʿi and Nafisi). 

Before the formation of a training center in 1973, Amelia Baghdassarian, along with Nasrindoḵt Badr-Irāni, who was trained by Lily Amirarjomand, and  zar Šehābi, who also took part in a trip to the United States for research on children’s libraries, trained most of the first group of the pre-Revolution librarians of Kanun. Šehābi also served as superintendant of Kānun libraries until 1971. 

The Training Center (Markaz-e āmuzeš) was founded in 1973 with Rasul Nafisi, a Law School graduate, as its director; he served until 1980, when he left the country. The Training Center organized classes for the training of Kanun’s existing librarians, as well as the influx of young librarians, in a well-equipped, modern building with dormitory facilities. In addition to the principles of library services, the trainees were taught a variety of subjects, such as introduction to philosophy, sociology, literature, arts, and biology. Many well-known scholars were invited as guest lecturers. The center also developed a program for in-service training of Kanun’s administrators and managers (interviews with Mirzāʾi and Nafisi). 

Rapid development of Kanun. In the course of a decade, Kanun went from fewer than 10 libraries, concentrated in the capital city of Tehran with a total personnel of less than 20 in 1966, to the status of a multi-purpose center by the mid-1970s with 222 libraries serving also as cultural centers and 30 mobile libraries throughout the country, with a work force of around 1,000 librarians and over 1,000 serving at art training shops and support services. There were 10 library buses in Tehran with 20 librarians and drivers serving schools in 10 points, making books available to children who lived in areas where Kanun as yet had no cultural centers. They also served hospitals and rehabilitation centers. It is estimated that approximately two million children and young adults benefited from the various services of the libraries and cultural centers (interview with Mirzāʾi; Kār-nāmeh, various issues). 

In addition to library services, these multifaceted cultural centers provided audio-visual resources—phonograph records with storytelling, folk music, the traditional modes of Persian music, songs for children, voices of poets, and accounts of Western classical music composers, as well as videos of animated and live films. The cultural centers also organized training workshops on painting, filmmaking, music, puppet shows, poetry readings, and the like. To provide these educational and leisure services for the cultural centers, Kanun established a number of core activities  activities, including book publishing, organizing film festivals and filmmaking, music and sound production, and visual arts training activities, which are discussed in the following sub-sections of this entry (see below, iii-vii). 

(Fereydoun Moezi Moghadam)

Originally Published: September 30, 2010

This article is available in print.
vol. XV, fasc. 5, pp. 504-505

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A children’s library, conceived by the founders of Kanun as a pilot project for future libraries, was approved, and construction began in 1965.